The farm life is hard. Things rarely go as planned and we are always at the mercy of outside factors...and sometimes our own shortfalls.
To be honest...our jobs are not just about farming...but about being master problem solvers and always adapting to new situations.
Because...nothing ever goes as planned.
Most of you know that on December 27th, we had a late Christmas present of a new little heifer...that we named Christmas.
Everything was going great until her momma stepped on her when she was three days old and fractured her toe.
This started a whole chain of events that we thought we had all under control...until it all went south.
After Christmas got her splint, she was having a hard time getting around the stall.
And to be honest...I think she was a little scared of her mom.
We bottle fed her for a few days just to make sure her mobility issues didn't keep her from eating.
We never saw her nursing off of momma...but we didn't just stare at her in the stall either.
After all, we do have other things to do.
We were keeping an eye on her, but she was doing well and even running and jumping around the stall. We were pretty confident she was nursing well.
Until the night Walker went out to do chores and came back in and said Christmas wouldn't get up and wouldn't lift her head.
I went out to the barn, and it was not good. She looked like she was going to die. We instantly knew she hadn't been nursing like we thought and she was in bad shape. We tried to give her a bottle, but she wouldn't even suck.
Daniel finally got home from work and came out to tube feed her. We knew there was a good chance it would be too little too late...but we always give it everything we've got.
It hadn't even dawned on the rest of us...but Daniel said she was too cold. We needed to get her inside and warmed up.
How many times have we seen pictures on social media or heard people talk about bringing calves into their kitchen, etc. to get warm? We've never had to deal with that...other than the day Wesson was born in the mud.
I guess the panic just muddied our brains.
Anyway, we took Christmas down to our basement (don't worry, we live in an old house so the basement isn't nice and clean). We tube fed her, rubbed her, bedded her down with hay...and took her temperature.
Four thermometers later...we figure out her temperature was too low to register on the thermometers. Her nose was cold, her ears were cold she barely lifted her head and she wasn't even shivering.
But we kept fighting.
A heat lamp, towels warmed in the microwave, sock buddy's (tube socks filled with rice and heated in the microwave), electrolytes, a shot of Vitamin B and a lot of love and attention...and a few hours later we had a calf that had enough energy to at least shiver.
She still wasn't in good shape.
It took about 4 hours until her temperature would register on the thermometer. By about midnight, we had done all we could do for her. We just needed time and Christmas needed the will to live. We all headed upstairs to bed and Walker set up the cot in the basement.
He got up every hour that night to try to bottle feed Christmas. By morning Walker was so exhausted he could barely utter a coherent sentence, but Christmas had drank about a half a pint of milk and had stood up on her own.
We sent Walker upstairs for virtual school (I don't know how he made it through the day). We all took frequent trips downstairs between classes and work meetings (the one time Covid worked in our favor) to check on her and fed her a bottle every couple of hours. We would milk her momma as much as we could, but we also discovered that momma did not have a good supply of milk (the whole supply and demand thing). We had to balance frequent milkings to increase momma's supply while supplementing with formula to make sure Christmas was getting enough to eat. She was skin and bones, so she had a lot of ground to make up.
It was a long two days...and partly because Nash was very aware that there was a calf in the basement...and he wasn't allowed to go see her.
By the second day, we would go downstairs and find Christmas in far reaching corners of the basement. We were also feeding her as much milk as we could...so she started peeing...a lot!
Remember, our basement is more like a cellar, so it wasn't a big deal. Until I went outside to get the mail and came back in the house and could smell cow. It was time for her to move out of the house!
The next hurdle was it was warm in the basement and very cold outside. We knew we couldn't just throw her out in the barn...she was still very fragile.
So, we moved her to the garage for a few days to help acclimate her to the colder temperatures.
Nash was allowed to see Christmas in the garage and he found his new best friend. Except...I don't think Christmas agreed...but she tolerated him.
After two days in the garage and Christmas getting even stronger and more adventurous, we sent her outside for some exercise.
It was a sunny and warmer day, so we decided it was a good time to get her back to momma in the barn. It had been four days since she had seen her mom.
It didn't take much to wear her out, so Isaac had to finish carrying her to the barn.
Christmas adjusted well to being back in the barn. We continued bottle feeding her for a few days, as we continued to work on momma's supply.
We also spent more time just watching Christmas. Making sure she was nursing on her own.
It worked, and Christmas and her mom are now on their own. Christmas is continuing to thrive...and we could get back to focusing on her foot healing.
The vet wanted us to keep her splint on for an extra week due to her rough start in life, so she had the splint on for a total of four weeks.
Last week, we returned to the vet to get her final splint off.
The vet told us that she had to stay in the barn for a few more weeks. Her leg is still very weak and she has to build her muscles back up. The bone is also still continuing to heal.
We live on a swamp on a hill...so the last thing the vet wanted was for her to be in any mud that could strain those tender muscles.
By Saturday, the ground was finally frozen, so we let Cece and Christmas out on the pasture for a few hours before the snow storm hit. It was the longest that Christmas has been out of the barn (other than in the house). In just the few days that her splint has been off, we have seen really good improvement in her strength and walking.
You can see that she still favors that leg and has a tendency to not want to put it down. However, she will put full weight on it when she walks.
She was only three days old when we put the splint on, so her muscles have to relearn what they are supposed to do.
After a few hours, Walker went out to walk her back to the barn, but she was so worn out she just laid down in the middle of the field. He had to carry her back to the barn.
It's been a rough road with Christmas, but she is a trooper. The vet has every confidence that she will make a full recovery.
Christmas has had a lot of hard knocks in her short life. First from her momma...and then from us not paying close enough attention. It is hard to watch one of your animals go down hill, but there is great satisfaction in knowing that you fought with everything you have to save them. Walker was put through the ringer keeping Christmas alive and getting her back in shape. Bottle feeding gets old really fast...but he did what he had to do.
It would have been easy for me to just post the pictures of Christmas on Facebook and Instagram of her cuteness and recovery from the fractured foot. I didn't take any pictures of her when things were touch and go, because sometimes there are things you don't want to remember, but I felt it was important to share that things aren't always as pretty as they seem on social media. Things don't always turn out how we expect them to. Bad things happen...and sometimes we help to make things better, and other times we accidentally make things worse.
It is certainly making us more diligent and observant with all of our young ones. The past several years we have not had to make any interventions in calving or calf care...so we let our guard down.
But we were lucky this time.
You might also like...
Hello! I am Heather... the city girl turned mom to manure loving country boys. My husband and I both grew up in the city, but spent weekends visiting grandparents in the country. We are first generation farmers who learn best by almost always doing things the hard way. I hope you enjoy following along with our adventures down on the farm.